Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on May 21, 2008
It’s been a not-so-great couple of news weeks for rocker Sting. First, an interview with wife Trudie Styler revealed that the eco public couple were “hypocrites” (her word) over their huge carbon footprint. And now, Sting’s almost 20-year-old rainforest charity is under intense media scrutiny for its large intake and “paltry” (the NY Post’s word) output.
According to the Post, while “Sting’s celebrity-studded Carnegie Hall charity concert in 2006 to save the world’s rainforests raked in millions,” only 41% of the revenue actually went into tree-saving programs. As a result, watchdog Charity Navigator has rated the Rainforest Foundation among the worst charities in New York, saying the amount given out should have been around 75%. CN, “which rates 5,000 charities nationally based on management and fund-raising-to-giving ratios” has, for the past four years, given RF a zero out of four. And, according to The Guardian, “less than 2%” of the charities monitored receive zeroes.
Allegation #2 is that the charity is hoarding donations. Their 2006 tax report showed a cash reserve of almost $5 million, raising the question of what they’re doing with all the money. Well-run charities generally only keep enough liquid to pay a year’s expenses, say experts.
Still another issue is the fair market declaration of the organization’s concert tickets. If tickets selling for $100 to $600 are only valued at $45 (as is evidently the case here), most of the concertgoer’s money spent can be written off as a donation. The discrepancy between cost and value raises red flags come audit time, says one analyst.
But the most astonishing component of this story comes from Belgian photographer Jean Pierre Dutilleux, who was one of the Rainforest Foundation’s founders back in 1989. (He left the organization in the early ‘90s.) “I have kept quiet for almost 20 years, hoping for improvement,” The Post quotes Dutilleux as saying in reference to the allegations. “But enough is enough. Everything is true or worse.”
Still, Franca Sciuto, chair of the RF’s parent body, says the foundation has been successful overall, with 85% of the almost $25 million taken in since its inception having gone to fight for native land rights and forest preservation.
While Sting himself has yet to comment, I think it’s fair to say his commitments to the rainforest and the environment are genuine and that, on top of it all, he’s a real trouper. He even has a species of tree frog named after him (the Dendropsophus stingi). And I reckon that if he can survive making a movie with Melanie Griffith, he can survive this.